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Michael Jackson's Memorial Service

I just finished watching Michael Jackson's Memorial Service on the dayroom TV here at Avenal State Prison. It was held at the Staples Center in Los Angeles and watched around the world. I'm glad school was cancelled today so I could stay back and watch it. It had a profoundly healing effect on me.

Although I've greatly enjoyed some of Michael's songs and music videos, I was never a big fan: never attended a concert and owned only one or two of his CDs. Nonetheless, I felt a deep kinship with him, with his childlike outlook on life and his role and influence as an entertainer, with his twin personalities: commanding on stage and demure off stage, with his particular attraction to kids, especially those in need of having their chin lifted up. In all of those ways, Michael Jackson was my hero.

And I wept shamelessly for him today, wiping away tears while those around me made jokes.

Michael was misunderstood. So am I. He wasn't perfect, none of us are, and sometimes our strengths become our weaknesses, but it never stopped him from dreaming of a better world. He knew the fragmentation of the world's peoples would be our demise and fought—through his music—for unity, harmony, and peace. So did I. His stage was the world, mine was the classroom, but we worked toward the same goals.

We were born on a stage, as it were, with many eyes watching us, and we learned early the power of a good performance: the power to change lives, the power to change the world. We both confronted the uglinesses of the world and strove to beautify them, to transform them, to make others laugh and smile and see the same visions we saw. With music and dance and video productions, he became the Greatest Entertainer of All Time. For me, with the classroom as my stage, I strove to be the best edutainer I could be. I sought to show kids a world they could scarcely dream of.

Michael's failings, whatever the truth may be, are completely understandable to me. To even glimpse his shy and gentle (off stage) personality is, for me, to know that his only intentions were to play, to make others laugh and smile, to lift them, if only for a moment, from their otherwise droll or painful lives. I know this, beyond a shadow of a doubt, because I have ever only shared those exact same intentions, nothing more, and certainly nothing sinister.

I wept wondering what my memorial service might look like. Would the people gathered there have understood me? Would they be able to look past my public failings to see into my heart, to see the purity and innocence and childlike dreams that reside there? Could they see outside the box of "total depravity" to understand that I never wanted to harm anyone ever? Could they forgive me for my weaknesses and celebrate my dreams? I am so, so glad that those family and friends gathered for Michael were able to do just that!

Michael Jackson was an ambassador to and from the whole world, transcending nationalities, races, religions, and all other divisions. May he—and his message of unity—be remembered forever, and remain an inspiration to all of us, especially his fellow entertainers, who have the power to move mountains.

michael jackson

© 2009 Jon Andreas. All rights reserved. Written Tuesday, 7 July 2009